First DAC: Metrum-MHDT-Rega-or?

I have read up on a lot of the posts here. Not sure if that led to more or fewer questions. I have a decent system, modded AR-XB table, Lehmann Phone pre, Exposure integrated and CDP, Harbeth speakers. I want to add my first DAC to the system. Initially it will take iTunes data from a MAC and run into the Exposure amp. I may also run digital out of the CDP into the DAC to see if that improves overall quality. I would like to stay at around $1000.THat is not a lot to some of you but that is kind of my limit at this point. From some of the reading I have done I am leaning toward a Metrum Amethyst, MHDT Orchid or Stockholm, or a Rega DAC-R. I am also open to used units as well. I do not want Pre-amp functionality, and a headphone amp is not critical but nice to have. I am interested in your commentary on the above units and brands. In addition the MAC is more than 15' away from the amp, so I am going to have to piece together USB, Interconnects and maybe SPDIF cables. Is there one cable I should avoid using in long lengths relative to the others?

I admit I am a total newbie in this. I will learn more about software...etc, but now just trying to make an educated decision as s first step.


Not sure if this helps, but if the Metrum Amethyst is anything like their higher line of Dacs, it could be something special. They make some terrific Dacs.
Metrum and MHDT are NOS Dacs, which IMO, reproduce very organic sonics.

FYI: If you decide on the Rega, don't spend too much. I offered my few years old Rega for 40% of what I paid and got no offers. Damn fine sounding DAC, don't understand...
I'm in a similar boat, thinking about adding a DAC to the Bluesound Node 2 in my bedroom.  I can use the DAC in my Oppo 105D, but would like something that doesn't involve turning on the TV and having to change inputs on the Oppo (yes, I'm THAT lazy).

Not new to DACs, I have a Mytek Liberty, Wyred 4 Sound DAC 2, Auralic Vega, Sony TA-ZH1ES headphone amp/DAC, Oppo 105D, and have had the Oppo HA1 and assorted integrates with nice DACs (Peachtree Nova 300, Peachtree Grand Integrated X-1).

The Vega is hands down the best of the bunch.  I like the Mytek a lot, but I think I'd like it more if it was just a little less "clinical".  The Wyred 4 Sound DAC is also pretty neutral, perhaps even a little on the "bright" side.

I'd like something that's a bit warmer.  The DAC in the Sony TA-ZH1ES and the Vega have a sound I really like.

The Orchid caught my eye as it sounds like it's a bit warmer and "lush" and I'd love to hear what others who have heard one think about it.

I love and have had Metrum DACs for years, but I would also love to try the border patrol DAC which comes up used in your price range sometimes. I recommend the coax SPDIF connection at that price point because adding all the USB reclockers and their power supplies adds up! I actually prefer the coax into my Onyx DAC over USB from my SOtM Roon endpoint. You have loads of choices these days...

No issue with USB length if connecting that way. SPDIF is max 10m. The $1,000 range is a bit sparse for even used units, so if buying new I'd go for Metrum.
I would think that your Exposure/Harbeth combo is somewhat musical, being somewhat warm vs. cooler or analytical. The choice of DAC should be made based on which way you want to take your system. The MHDT and Border Patrol DACs are also toward the warm side while DACs such as the Benchmark or Bryston tend the other way.  Perhaps a DAC that is known to be more neutral might be in order? 

There are many quality DACs, new or used, that would well serve your system priced within your budget. 

There are so many good, reasonably priced DACs around. If you want a natural, analogue sound, then Metrum is hard to beat. I recently replaced my Ayre QB9 DAC for a Metrum Octave at a fraction of the price and it is excellent.

 If you want a more dynamic, detailed sound, then Chord is where I would go, the 2Qute second hand or the new Qutest, are really excellent I was going for the Qutest till I listened to the Octave. They aren't really better or worse than each other, just very different.

in your price point I really like the latest Parasound ZDac as well as anything from Schiit

I would avoid anything more than 10 years old, as the playback got seriously better after.

DACs not yet mentioned from iFi Audio and Project , could be used.  One that I would avoid in that price range is Arcam
if you could stretch the budget to $2K, then a world of great DACs becomes available, ones that you may never feel the need to upgrade from.  So as this is your first DAC, I would spend as little as possible and see how you like world of Computer Audio.  If you then want to do a major upgrade in the future, I would suggest budgeting around 2K
So I have ordered a MHDT Orchid. I know my ears, and I much prefer analog over clinical. I also like the idea of introducing a tube into the chain. Will let you know what I think once broken in. Thanks for the input.
I think you made a good choice.  Yes, please let us know what you think of this DAC.
Congratulations. I've narrowed my choices down to the MHDT Orchid and Border Patrol SE. Will probably pull the trigger in the next couple of weeks. Please let us know how you like it.